Pocklington took another big step towards the Yorkshire One title when they ground out a hard-earned home win over third-placed Bridlington.
In some games this season, Pocklington have blown away the opposition with high-tempo running rugby. In others it has needed an arm wrestle to come out on top of determined opposition; and Saturday was all about endeavour and pressure as for Bridlington, the division’s previous long-term leaders, it was a must-win encounter.
Pocklington dominated territory and the set pieces, spending 70 of the 80 minutes on the attack. But the tension of the occasion and Bridlington’s strong tackling meant the home side were seldom able to break the defensive shackles.
Nevertheless, they always looked in control and ended deserved winners to now lead the table by eight points with two games to go.
Flanker Jack Holbrough, who had flown back early from France to play, snaffled an early turnover and fly half Joe Holbrough drilled a couple of long touchfinders towards the corner to get Pocklington on to the offensive. They set up camp in Bridlington territory and fullback Nick Bennett banged over a 10th minute penalty to give them an early lead.
With Pocklington having a clear set piece advantage, they looked to get the ball moving but determined Brid tackles and Pock penalties at the breakdown enabled the visitors to clear their line.
Bridlington then broke upfield where the home forwards were again penalised at the tackle and Bridlington kicked a 40-yard penalty to level the scores.
Pocklington’s forwards quickly restated their dominance by driving the Bridlington eight back at the next two scrums but another rare foothold in the home half saw Bridlington kick another towering long-range penalty to surprisingly lead by three points.
Pocklington gave signs of finding an attacking rhythm and, after strong runs from Bennett, Tim Nixon and Dan Pickard, Bennett saw a penalty attempt slide just wide. Skipper Mat Webber led a bout of offloads and centre Jake Bishop made a twisting 30-yard break when a deflected kick fell into his path, but Pocklington were unlucky when the pack took over to drive to the line in the left corner. Lock Chris Hyde was certain he had got the touchdown but the referee was unsighted and gave a scrum which Bridlington somehow stole to clear.
The home forwards quickly took their side back and the interval whistle came with Pocklington again camped on the attack.
If it had never quite come together for Pocklington in the first half, everything promptly clicked within a minute of the restart. They won a scrum 25 yards out and, with the Bridlington defence targeting the home midfield, fly half Joe Holbrough made another of his languid, arcing runs to carve through to the side of the posts, Bennett converting for 12-3.
Bishop was almost clear when he caught a kick ahead, then Nixon and Jack Holbrough battered strongly up the middle, but more good Bridlington tackling and further needless Pock penalties stopped the momentum. They were soon back and, after Ben Rees and Pickard had probed blind, Jack Holbrough was driven over under a pile of pack bodies. After a long wait to see who came up with the ball, the try was finally given.
At 15-3, with only 15 minutes to go, the game looked just about safe. But Pocklington failed to take the teasing kick off, and a series of ricochets ended with Bridlington going clear under the posts for a shock converted try.
That closed the gap to just two points and put the result back in the melting pot. Pocklington resumed the offensive and laid siege to the Bridlington line in the closing stages. From a series of five-yard scrums Pock were stopped just short on half a dozen occasions by determined Bridlington defence, with centre Nixon going the closest.
But Pocklington kept battering blind and scrummaging strongly to ensure Bridlington were pinned on their line to the end to make sure of a crucial victory.